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Fewer Resources Means More War

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Last year, the number of cars on the world’s roads passed the 1 billion mark. That’s hundreds of millions of drivers all counting on a fuel supply that isn’t just consistent, but ever-increasing.

To meet this demand, oil companies are now investigating the possibilities opening up as the Arctic sea ice melts due to global warming. Unfortunately, we’re completely unprepared to deal with an oil spill there. Picture the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, except subtract the ability to mitigate the environmental and ecological damage.

Another possibility currently being explored is one I discussed Monday–the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline that would transport oil from the Alberta tar sands to Texas, to be processed in the Gulf of Mexico. This is the same initiative that climate scientist Jim Hansen says would mean “game over” for our climate.

As if a deteriorating global climate isn’t bad enough, a recent study shows that any disruption to the climate leads to an increased chance of armed conflict. According to researchers, increased temperature and decreased rainfall could  be the cause of as many as a fifth of world conflicts in the last 50 years. So global warming won’t just mean environmental devastation–it will also mean war.

For another example of resource scarcity creating conflict, consider the rare minerals that go into our electronics such as tantalum and cassiterite. These are mined in places where armed conflict and human rights abuses are widespread, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the profits from mining help finance femicide–the systematic raping, beating and killing of women.

There are solutions, of course. Apple, for instance, is now buying old electronics (even PCs) and recycling them to make new ones. As for reducing our oil addiction, there are alternatives, though they need more money and more of the public’s attention.

Though it’s difficult to envision now–especially for those living in the seemingly remote, peaceful West–our world will become increasingly unstable unless we work to achieve sustainability. The responsibility rests with us, both as individuals and as cultures. It isn’t just about the success and safety of future generations. It’s about ours as well.

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